Country diary 1922: sympathy for the hunted fox

Perhaps a country diarist may be allowed to comment on the correspondence about foxhunting, especially as one advocate of thesport signs himself “Nature Lover.” He affirms that the fox “expects to be hunted,” but do we know that animals really expect anything? All we feel sure about is that they have good memories of past experiences, and instinctively or consciously try to avoid danger; personally I do not believe that they look ahead, and therefore do not fear the future however much they suffer from fear in the present. Further, this writer argues that a ballot of foxes on an alternative issue of extinction or a hunted life would give a majority for the latter. To this I agree, for we can only judge from a human standpoint; how many of us would prefer extinction? We should greatly prefer a life free from peril; so surely would the fox.

Years ago, when crossing a Cheshire park, I heard the approaching pack and saw the hunted fox within a few yards of where I was standing. Panting, bedraggled, dead-beat, a picture of abject misery, it could hardly drag itself along, and the hounds were close behind. Suddenly it turned, doubling round a bush, and, dodging with marvellous skill, passed safely through the heavier hounds, and reached a withy bed. But it was its last effort, and to my sorrow they killed it there. Ever since then all my sympathy has been for the fox, and I could never enjoy “the greatest, most manly, natural, and healthy of British sports,” when it means so many men, horses, and dogs pitted against one smaller and weaker creature. “Put yourself in the animal’s place,” says another correspondent; we should hardly then claim that the fox enjoys the hunt.

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